Like a lot of his teammates, Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague is adjusting to the fast pace the Wolves want to play at this season.
For now, he’d prefer if he wasn’t on the floor for extended periods of time just so he can catch his breath.
“I like playing shorter stints,” Teague said. “I didn’t play basketball all summer, so the thing for me is just trying to get rust off and trying to build my endurance. ... I’m still a little ways behind everybody else. Shorter stints are probably better for me.”
This is the balance coach Ryan Saunders is trying to find as the Wolves enter the season. Playing fast has consequences, and one will be that players will get tired, no matter how well-conditioned they are.
“It is major change, a major shift,” Saunders said. “With playing fast comes, and with freedom, comes great responsibility. … We just understand it’s not going to work perfect when you try and play at this pace, initially.”
Nobody played faster than the Wolves during the preseason. They averaged 112 possessions per game, which would have led the league last season. Saunders does expect the game to slow down once the regular season begins, but the goal to play fast won’t go away, even if players begin getting tired.
“The season is long — you have at least 82 games,” Saunders said. “So with that, you’re often playing four games in five nights, at times. That’s where I need to make sure I do a good job of subbing guys out and having rotations on nights like that that might be shorter stints so that we can still play at a high pace.”
Saunders said he has an idea of how deep into the bench he’ll go for substitutions, but that will also still require some feeling out as the seasons gets going. For the player likely to play the most minutes, Karl-Anthony Towns, conditioning hasn’t been an issue.
“I’ve done it all, I don’t think it’s going to bother me too much,” Towns said. “I felt great in Milwaukee [on Thursday]. I felt good with the pace and everything. I never had a problem. That’s why we get ready in the preseason for this.”
The preseason was also needed for Teague, who picked up the $19 million option for the final year of his contract. Teague underwent a left ankle debridement procedure in April to help clean up a nagging injury that plagued him much of last season.
But when asked if he felt fully healthy outside of his conditioning, Teague, 31, revealed he might not be: “I feel OK. I don’t think I’ll ever be 100%, but I feel OK.”
Teague’s fit in the new-look Wolves bears monitoring as the Wolves open the season, and so does his health as he attempts to regain the form he had that made him an All-Star before coming to the Wolves.
Teague played in only 42 games last season, a career low, and averaged 12.1 points and 8.2 assists.
But he will be helping jump-start this new-look offense, for as long as he can.
“It’s tough. I can’t lie. I got tired a couple of times,” Teague said. “Try your best to stay in shape, get as many reps as you can in practice, try to build that endurance.”